This paper is the first to be published as part of the Lived Experience theme of The Economy 2030 Inquiry. It explores the subjective experience of work to provide a rounded picture of the changing realities of employment as policy and the economy have evolved since the 1980s to the latter part of the 2010s.
Overall, the authors findings demonstrate that arguments that job quality has deteriorated significantly or that employees are trapped in jobs they consider worthless clearly fail to capture the reality of what is going on: the majority of employees remain satisfied with their job and falls in job satisfaction have been relatively modest over time.
However, the picture is more concerning when it comes to lower earners. Across a range of indicators – from job satisfaction, to workplace stress, to feeling used up at the end of the day – the experience of work for low-earners has deteriorated at a faster rate than for those who earn more. In doing so, the experience of low earners is beginning to catch-up the experience of higher earners (who report the worst absolute level). This under-discussed shift should be a focus of attention for policy makers, and will inform the development of the Economy 2030 Inquiry